In this post, I’m going to cover President Trump’s recent decision to remove our minor military presence of 50 or so troops from the Kurdish occupied northern region of Syria. While the history of the Turkish/Kurdish conflict over the past few centuries has been a mainstay of that territory, the United States presence there has only lasted for the past decade. With Trump partially fulfilling one of his campaign promises to try and remove the U.S. from never-ending wars he has upset many leaders at home and abroad who would love to see us remain there in perpetuity.
Two Republican Senators who have polar opposite views on the decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria are Rand Paul (KY) and Lindsey Graham (SC). Both have been making their opinions known to any media outlet that interviews them. Paul praises the president while Graham feels we are making a huge mistake. Graham feels we are betraying an ally who has fought with us to defeat ISIS and Paul feels that since our objective is completed we should bring our troops home. Both make valid points.
Graham was recently interviewed on Fox & Friends about the president’s decision. Here is a brief excerpt from that interview.
“When Turkey goes into Syria, they’re not going in to fight ISIS. They’re going in to kill the Kurds because in their eyes they’re more of a threat to Turkey than ISIS,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox & Friends. He added that “every military person” has told Trump not to pull the troops out.
Host Brian Kilmeade pointed out that Trump’s decision had pleased members of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“No, this is not Rand Paul. This is Obama. Obama did the same thing in Iraq,” Graham said comparing the move to President Barack Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq, which he and others blamed for the rise of the Islamic State.
“We destroyed ISIS with the help of the Kurds,” he said. “We can’t abandon the Kurds now. We can’t turn it over to Turkey. To think that will work is really delusional and dangerous.”
This past Wednesday the President defended his position on Twitter.
“The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East. Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY! We went to war under a false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE! Now we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home. Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!”
On the same network, Neil Cavuto was interviewing Rand Paul. Here is a portion of his response to Graham’s criticism.
The Turks live over there. The Syrians live over there. And we have — they have apparently come to an agreement. There’s about three million Syrian refugees in Turkey. You know, they’re going to try to get some of those people back into Syria. And they have to have an area — a zone where they can control that.
And, you know, I think that the best answer is, is that we don’t have all the answers and that the people who live there are always going to have more of a stake in the game, and we need to not think that it’s always the U.S.’ responsibility to fight every war and find every peace.
We haven’t been able to find peace for 18 years in Afghanistan. So I certainly don’t think we’re going to find peace in Syria. But I do think a couple of hundred people there is simply a tripwire for a bigger war or for a calamity for our soldiers.
CAVUTO: Well, you know, Lindsey Graham has said, this is going to be a stain on Americans’ honor for abandoning the Kurds, the ones who were so instrumental in going after ISIS, he says.
Nikki Haley had said: “We must have the backs of our allies if we expect them to have our backs.”
What do you say?
PAUL: You know, I think, back after World War I, we could have done a better job drawing up these country lines.
Right now, there at least is a Kurdish autonomous region within Iraq. And I think that’s a good place for people to live if they want to have more Kurdish autonomy.
But then it may be unrealistic to think that either Turkey or Syria is going to give up part of their territory up there to an autonomous region for the Kurds.
So, you know, some have said this will force the Kurds to decide who their allies are. But I guess that’s kind of what they have got to decide. It’s definitely not going to be Turkish allies.
So the question is, do they have more in common with Syria? And could there be some unification of causes there to try to find stability in Syria?
The bottom line is, this chaos was fed by outside intervention. The Turks got involved. We got involved, the Qataris, the Saudis. All these people got involved in this Syrian civil war. And to what end?
I mean, hundreds of thousands of people have died. Millions of people are displaced. So, once again, the idea of regime change in the Middle East — and this is what President Trump is so right about — regime change hasn’t worked. It’s led to more chaos.
And the rise of ISIS came in the chaos of Hussein being toppled, but also the chaos of Assad’s regime being made marginal and made fragile.
Both Senators are well versed in the geopolitical ramifications of foreign intervention along with the consequences of a lack of U.S. presence. However small our physical soldier commitment was to the region, it was still a presence. By withdrawing our troops Trump has told our Kurdish and Turkish allies that it’s now up to them to decide if they want to continue fighting amongst each other over disputed territory or use diplomacy to foster peace. Either way, the decision will be theirs to make.
For many in the media and on Capitol Hill who feel the U.S. must be involved in the peacekeeping process of the majority of the planet to prove our dominance as a superpower, I remind them of a phrase they may have forgotten. ‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.’ What neocons and war hawks believe is that we should topple regimes that no longer align with our interests, and once we do, remain there to rebuild a nation we helped to destroy. By doing so, we keep the peace and our presence on a global stage. What was initially promoted as a 30-day intervention in Syria turned into a ten-year peacekeeping mission between two allies.
A police state is a government that exercises power arbitrarily through the power of the police force. What else would you call our military presence in Syria and other parts of the world where our country is being asked to keep the peace? The United States has protected South Korea from North Korea by keeping thousands of our soldiers in a ready to act state since 1957. Six decades later, with a war that has never officially ended, and we are no closer to seeing our time on the Korean Peninsula come to an end.
The obvious problem with never-ending wars is that they have no clear definition of success. All conflicts start with objectives that are clear and measurable. When the goals shift from military conquest to global peacekeeper we lose sight of why we entered into war in the first place. Every great nation and empire that came before us fell victim to what we are repeating now: overexpansion. By having a military footprint in numerous countries and remaining there to keep the peace, we are running trillion-dollar deficits that will only lead to the financial collapse of our country. Besides the fiscal cost of war, there is the human cost of loved ones lost. No amount of money can bring them back. No politician’s plea of protecting an ally against another ally can provide a grieving family solace. The number one goal of our political leaders is to defend our nation from enemies domestic and abroad and uphold the Constitution. When those enemies abroad are defeated they must protect our soldiers from unnecessary harm by bringing them home. Mission completed does not mean policing begins. It simply means the job is done. With the Vietnam War lasting close to 20 years and the War in Afghanistan a current close second, you would think those in power would have learned the lessons of the past with Syria. If history repeats itself as it always does, they unfortunately never will.